Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WTF, mate? WOTC goes Old-School


So, WOTC just announced that it will no longer allow PDFs of its products to be sold, including out of print products. I'm really glad I got my copy of the 3 LBB recently because otherwise I'd be SOL! They claim that it is a response to piracy issues.

I find this especially ironic because in the 4E DMG, WOTC discusses using a computer to enhance your game. Oops. Shouldn't have included that paragraph.

This just strikes me as idiocy of the highest order. People will want PDFs of the books. This is for a variety of reasons -- they may own the print copy of the book and want a searchable digital copy that's easy to copy-paste from for character sheets (I appreciate that for my RPOL games, for sure), they may not want a paper copy at all, they may want a copy they can easily store (when I travel, I like having my PDF books with me, because I'm not hauling my whole library with me), etc.

PROBLEM: Some people pirate the books.
SOLUTION: Make it impossible to buy them legitimately.


The people that want digital PDF copies will still want them. That demand will not go away. However, the only supply will be illegal copies. So, WOTC will effectively train its entire fan base -- who previously would happily give their credit card number over -- how to use illegal downloading software to obtain copies of the books because there is no other choice (other than not getting it at all, and thus not using WOTC products). That is the height of stupidity.

Plus, they are denying themselves the steady trickle of income from legacy products. Sure, I doubt that sales of OD&D will make anyone rich. But its basically free money.

This is just stupid. Other industries -- including the music industry -- and print publications have figured out how to sell their products over the internet. It is 2009, after all!

But I guess WOTC wants to turn the clock back to 1974. Maybe they are embracing the old-school afterall.


I just found additional information here:

Apparently WOTC is attempting to drive business to the Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) by requiring you to have a real brick & mortar store that primarily sells gaming material in order to market on the internet.

While the intent is laudable to a certain degree, the execution is rather poor. After all, this is the same company that just sold the 4E core books on Amazon for about half the price charged by the local FLGS. FLGS owners were complaining that they could not match the price given by Amazon -- their purchase price was about the same as Amazon's sale price!

I can understand jacking up the price on the PDFs some to make purchasing at a brick & mortar store more viable, or maybe requiring a "download code" or something from a physical book in order to get a legal PDF, but an outright ban is just stupid.

Also, I think its a questionable decision to tie the fate of your own product line to that of a floundering industry. I doubt that White Wolf or any other game publisher will so restrict their sales. It'd be like Honda only selling cars through dealerships in Wyoming on Tuesdays, or Kraft Cheese only selling their products in Krogers.

Perhaps WOTC has judged that if the FLGS goes out of business, they will lose a significant degree of sales. That's possible. But I don't think this will staunch the bleeding for stores that already have significant business plan problems, and those stores which are doing alright will still be fine. It just hurts WOTC's market share, drives up illegal downloads, and hurts WOTC's brand image/goodwill.


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